By Marcus Leach

United Business Media’s flagship awards programme, the National Business Awards in partnership with Orange, re-emphasised its support for entrepreneurship and innovation this morning by unveiling its Pride of British Business campaign — actively seeking out the individuals and enterprises helping to restore confidence in UK plc.

Oxfam was also announced as its chosen charity partner for 2011 to help raise funds for its Enterprise Development Programme, which is designed to help entrepreneurs in developing countries world-wide.

Now in its tenth year, and the most respected accolade for business in the UK, the National Business Awards launched its 2011 campaign with the support of influential business leaders such as angel investor and entrepreneur champion Julie Meyer, CEO of Ariadne Capital, Richard North, CEO of Wow! Stuff, the Wolverhampton-based toy manufacturer, and Sir John Banham, who has chaired a number of blue chip businesses including Whitbread, Kingfisher, Tarmac, West Country Television and, currently, Johnson Matthey. It is also backed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who is to speak at the Awards Ceremony on the 8th November in London.

“I want Britain to become the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business. To do that, we need to learn from the many success stories coming out of Britain’s business community. The National Business Awards are the perfect way to celebrate the best of British business in every sector and every region”, said George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The National Business Awards has distinguished itself by its robust judging process, with over 100 CEOs and senior directors participating as judges in 2010, and the quality of businesses taking part in the programme — in the past decade it has brought innocent drinks, Trunki and moneysupermarket.com to the nation’s attention. The programme has also recognised the leadership styles and achievements of the likes of Paul Walsh, CEO of Diageo; Harriet Lamb, CEO of Fairtrade Foundation; Sir Terry Leahy, former CEO of Tesco; Dame Marjorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson; and Martin McCourt, CEO, Dyson.

“In order to encourage confidence in UK business, we need to showcase those companies that are leading the pack and have demonstrated real innovation in the past year. Orange is a key supporter of Britain’s businesses, large and small, which is why we believe it is so important for people to highlight their success by entering The National Business Awards”, said Martin Stiven, Vice President of Business at Orange, part of Everything Everywhere.

Organisations operating in the public and private sector, of all shapes and sizes, are invited to register for award categories ranging from the Orange Innovation Award (won by Midlands-based toy distributor Wow! Stuff in 2010) to the Santander SME of the Year Award (won by North-East hobby-craft specialist Crafter’s Companion) through to the ICAEW Sustainability Award (won by ethical retailer The Co-operative Group). New award categories for this year include BlackBerry Business Enabler of the Year and WorldPay Online Business of the Year.

In addition to the open to enter categories, there are five nomination only categories where the wider business community can nominate the UK’s leading businesses and individuals to be considered as finalists. These include the Orange Leader of the Year, the Daily Telegraph Award for a Decade of Business Excellence, the Coutts & Co Large-Cap Business of the Year, the Grant Thornton Mid-Cap Business of the Year and the 3i Private Business of the Year.